The last time the Minot High School football team traveled to the capital for a game against the Bismarck Century Patriots, a berth in the state championship was on the line.
The Magicians still remember last year's 14-13 loss, when then-sophomore fullback Kolton Larson's 9-yard touchdown run with one minute, 20 seconds remaining set the stage for overtime. But then-sophomore kicker Ben Love's extra point was blocked and the MHS season came to an abrupt end in regulation.
"It was a letdown," senior cornerback Cody Haugen said of that game. "We were all fired up after he scored and then we missed that, but it happens."
Minot High School junior left guard Joey Rensvold (left) blocks junior lineman Nick Lee during Thursday’s practice at Magic City Campus.
Minot (5-0 overall, 2-0 West Region) aims to avenge that loss tonight at the Bismarck Community Bowl. Century (3-2, 2-1) is the first team with a winning record to face the Magicians this year.
Century's two losses - at Fargo South and against Bismarck High - came against teams with a combined 9-1 record.
"We know we have to play our best football this week to even have a chance to get a win," MHS coach Barry Holmen said.
The Patriots have plenty of veteran leadership on both sides of the ball as most of the skill positions are occupied by senior starters.
Defensive back Deion Volk and linebacker Jacob Loraas both made second-team all-state last year as juniors. Senior wide-out Drew Wiseman earned first-team all-state honors as a cornerback and was all-region as a wide receiver. Wiseman scored on both sides of the ball in the Patriots' 35-8 win against Jamestown last week, hauling in a 77-yard pass from senior quarterback Jared Fischer before returning an interception 33 yards for a score.
"Their wide receiver is the fastest guy in the state," Holmen said. "They will present a vertical threat that is significant so we have to make sure that we take (Wiseman) out of the game as much as possible. Sometimes when you do that, that means you have less bodies at the line of scrimmage, so that makes defending the run all that much more difficult."
At tailback, Century boasts another senior with a solid reputation. Ben Kraft ran for more than 1,000 yards last year and scored a touchdown last week against Jamestown.
MHS junior left guard Joey Rensvold has never beaten a Bismarck-area team. To change that, Rensvold said the offensive line will have to adjust to a unique Patriots defensive set that uses six linemen. Tight ends may be called on more for blocking purposes but slowing down the Century defense may hinge on one important thing.
"We just gotta work hard on hitting people," Rensvold said.
Patriots coach Ron Wingenbach said his team's number one defensive priority is stopping MHS junior quarterback Alex Yanosko. Yanosko scored a touchdown and ran for over 100 yards in last year's state semifinal.
"I think it all starts with the quarterback," the 23rd-year coach said. "He hurt us last year in the semifinal game with his ability to run and throw. It just seems like he has a knack of eluding players, so to speak. I think it starts with him."
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.